FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. --
When President Barack Obama passed The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, it allowed the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide increased benefits for injured veterans as well as their caregivers.
One result of this act, passed May 10, 2010, was the VA’s Family Caregiver Program. The program allows wounded 9/11 veterans to elect receiving their care at home through a family caregiver in addition to treatments at a VA facility.
“The VA has long supported caregivers of veterans,” said Meg Kabat, deputy director of the VA’s Caregiver Support Program. “We’ve known for a long time that by providing direct support to caregivers, we’re helping veterans remain in the communities and homes they’ve often fought to keep.”
With the sudden injury of a loved one, many caregivers feel ill equipped for their role as caregiver. Many are forced to quit jobs or juggle the care of children with providing for their injured loved one. The Family Caregiver Program aims to help caretakers make this transition successfully.
In addition to other services, the program offers a stipend, mental health services, respite care and health care insurance in cases where veterans are not already entitled to it. The goal of the program is to help equip family members with the knowledge and skills to tend for their loved ones at home. The program can also help caregivers attain medical equipment and supplies as needed.
“In many ways the program is just additional support and assistance for the family,” Kabat said. “So often, when a service member is injured, the focus is on the veteran. The caregiver program has allowed the clinical folks to take a step back and look at how the caregiver is doing as well.”
To continue to help caregivers feel connected, the program launched the Peer Support Mentoring Program in January 2012. This program helps strengthen relationships between caregivers and even matches new members with more experienced caregivers to pass on wisdom and skills.
“The caregiver may have felt that they could take on the care of their loved one for a short period of time, but they may be taking it on for decades,” Kabat said. “We need to be able to support them over the long haul.”
As of Oct. 1, 6,400 caregivers and veterans are benefitting from this program.
To be eligible, service members must have physical injuries that keep them from performing daily living tasks and responsibilities. For more information on the program or to apply, visit www.caregiver.va.gov